WH e-mails missing on key days in court battle over Cheney's energy task force


Nick Juliano
Published: Monday January 21, 2008

Although the Supreme Court eventually sided with the White House in its quest to keep secret the proceedings of Dick Cheney's energy task force, a new report released this weekend shows some dates on which staff members in the vice president's office allegedly destroyed internal communications correlate with court decisions regarding the task force.

Historical archives of White House e-mails are missing for at least 473 days of Bush's presidency. A report compiled this weekend by a group suing the administration shows Cheney's underlings apparently deleted their e-mails on days that the courts contradicted their quests to keep internal proceedings private.

On Sept. 11, 2003, a federal appeals court rejected the administration's argument that Cheney's Energy Task Force documents should remain secret. The next day, records show there are missing e-mails from Cheney's office, according to the report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

A few weeks later, the administration took its case to the Supreme Court, repeating its arguments that task force deliberations should remain secret. On Oct. 1, 2003, the day after that argument, and for the next four days e-mails again went missing from Cheney's office.

The Bush administration prevailed in the end and the courts upheld its claims to secrecy in a lawsuit that was brought by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch and the environmental group the Sierra Club. The Washington Post eventually revealed the extent of the energy industry's involvement in the task force.

The missing e-mail saga has played out in court in recent months and the House Oversight Committee is set to examine the matter at a hearing next month.

CREW's report documents several other potentially damning correlations between the days when e-mail went missing and controversial events within the Bush administration.

Among the sixteen days for which email are missing from Vice President Cheney's office is Sept. 30, 2003, the same day the day the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced they were investigating who outed former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.

That morning, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered the president and the vice president's staff to "preserve all materials that might be relevant" to an inchoate Justice Department probe.

Cheney's office also is missing e-mails from Oct. 4, 2003, when the Justice Department demanded that the White House turn over "all documents that relate in any way" to the leak of Plame's identity.